Switzerland is not just known for skiing and chocolate. They also love their cheese and have managed to create one cheesy dinner dish! Fondue, a communal dish shared at the table in a eartenware pot over a small burner and eaten with bread, is hugely popular. There are fondue restaurants on every corner and fondue mixes crowd the store shelves. Getting together with friends for fondue is more of an event rather than just dinner. While Jignesh experienced this swiss tradition during a business dinner, I was a fondue virgin until last night. Jignesh surprised me with a date at Cafe du Soleil, a popular restaurant specializing in fondue. While I was a bit unsure about eating just bread dipped in warm cheese for dinner, I have to admit that it was delicious! Over our pot of fondue and using Jignesh's first fondue as a baseline, we experimented and discovered the keys to perfect fondue. First, the cheese has to be high quality and the right temperature. Second, the bread has be fresh and torn into the small pieces. Finally, you have to use the long, skinny fork to completely soak the cheese. If you are going to have bread and cheese for dinner, you have to go all the way! Don't even think about just lightly dipping the bread. I am afraid that we missed the best part. If you finish your entire pot, the server will scrape it and allow you to eat the thin, crackerlike layer of toasted cheese. I guess we need to bring a bigger appetite next time! While I loved fondue, I don't think that I could eat it every night. It will have to be reserved for special occasions and outings with friends. I only have one more thing to say. Where is the chocolate fondue?
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
This past week, Jignesh was in Poland for work. So, I joined him and we extended the visit into the weekend. While there are certaintly some tourists sights (castles, musuems, etc) to explore, we decided to toss the clip board of fun and just relax. Our trip began in Warsaw where we enjoyed a night in one of Poland's most luxurious hotels, Le Meridien Bristol. We enjoyed a huge suite, an amazing breakfast, and the service of a doorman dressed in a funny robe and hat. The best part...it was free! While in Warsaw, we dined at a traditional and unusual Polish restaurant. The restuarant used to be a full service hotel until it lost its hotel license. However, the owners were able to retain their food and beverage license and began operating a resturant literally inside the hotel's old kitchen. While the walls were bare and there were no other decorations to please the eye, the atmosphere was still fantastic as all the food was prepared at your table and servers weaved between the closely placed tables carrying all sorts of ingredients. We did manage to a little more (ok, not that much more) in Warsaw than stay at nice hotels and eat lots of food. We also experienced a bit of Warsaw's nightlife with Jignesh's co-workers and wondered through the beutiful streets of old town.
Since we had the fancy hotel for only one night, we decided at the last minute to hop on a train and head to Krakow for two nights. The train was a nice 2 1/2 hour ride through the snowy Polish countryside. Upon arriving in Krakow, we discovered our hotel luck would continue as we were able to use Jignesh's points for free nights. Score! Krakow is an amazing city with charming arcitecture and friendly locals. The Rynek, Krakow's main attraction, is the largest medieval town square. It is the perfect place to grab a coffe or do some shopping. It also holds the famous cloth hall. One of the original centers of international trade, today cloth hall is home endless booths selling amber jewelry, lace, and other various trinkets. Krakow also allowed us to sample some of Poland's traditional foods. Bigos, a savory stew of cabbage and meat, has no standard recipe and is often prepared with whatever leftovers are found around the house. It is common for Polish households to keep a large pot of bigos for over a week and just refresh it with additional ingredients when necessary! Our bigos was overflowing with cabbage, onions, sausage, mushrooms and various spices. It was surprisingly light and so so yummy! In addition to bigos, we also had some delicious pierogies and hearty, homemade soups. Oh, I cannot forget the round, bagel like things sold from stands on the street.
Our weekend was short but perfect! It was nice to getaway from the expensive restaurants and shops of Geneva and enjoy a slice of eastern Europe!
Monday, February 15, 2010
While you can undoubtly survive with English in Geneva, French is still the official language and used in most stores and businesses. To truly integrate into the community and feel at home, I feel that it is imperative to speak French (or at least try!). So, in an attempt to do just that, Jignesh and I are a few weeks into a group class that meets twice a week. I never thought that learning a new language would be easy but I did not think that it would be this hard! The pronunciation is proving to be almost impossible. I feel like a tongue-tied giraffe when attempting to pronounce words that sound nothing like their spellings. And the french "r," simply forget about it! On top of it all, there is just so much to remember. Despite the frustrations, we are really enjoying the challenge and are SLOWLY making progress. Thanks to a very good and patient teacher, we have mastered (umm...maybe mastered is a bit of a strong description) some basic phrases and questions. We can also say the alphabet and most numbers. We are even beginning to congugate some verbs. We even had a conversation in French the other day. (Ok, the conversation was with a 6 year old boy and involved no more than 4 words but, hey, it is a start!). There is no doubt that we have a very long way to go and the phrase, "Je ne parle pas fracais," (I don't speak French) continues to be my favorite sentene. As I think I may benefit from daily practice, I may even take a more intensive class after our current course ends. Will I ever become completely fluent in French? Probably not. Will I ever adopt the beautiful French accent? Definitely Not. However, I would love to walk away from this experience with, at the minimum, coversational French. So, with that in mind...my french homework is calling!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Yesterday was an unusually sunny, warm day. So, I headed out the door for a long walk with Schlopy complete with a stop at the dog park for the little guy. As we were leaving the park and heading for home, the loudest sirens imaginable started to fill the air. These were not your average emergency vehicle or car alarm sirens. I honestly thought that the city was under attack and expected to soon see men dressed in black and holding guns running through the streets. I looked around for safety and seriously thought about making a run for a nearby maintenance building. However, none of my fellow dog owners seemed bothered by these air raid like sirens. So, not wanting to be a crazy expat I discreetly rushed Schlopy out of the park, picked up the pace, and headed for home. Although the sirens only last about 10 minutes, my ears were ringing for the next few hours. As soon as I arrived home, I used the trusty internet to discover the reason for these sirens. Apparently, these air raid warnings are tested once a year on the first Wednesday in Febuary. What would happen if there actaully was an attack on the first Wednesday in February?